Hope against the 'Silent killer': Egyptian oncologists discuss new treatments for cervical cancer

Ingy Deif, Tuesday 11 Oct 2022

In a forum in Cairo last week, Egyptian oncologists discussed the latest research and development for effective treatments to reduce the number of deaths and increase recovery rates from cervical cancer, which is one of the most prevalent types of cancer among women in Egypt and worldwide.

cervical cancer awareness


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women worldwide.

Dubbed the "Silent Killer', it is also the second cause of cancer-related mortality among women worldwide, according to the WHO.

The number of new cases of cervical cancer has skyrocketed in 2020 to reach 604,000 cases in the world - 80 percent of which are in developing countries.

The number of deaths from the disease in 2020 stood at 342,000 cases worldwide, according to the WHO.

Taking symptoms seriously

Stakeholders seized October as breast cancer awareness month to highlight to discuss the symptoms and new treatment methods for cervical cancer.

Dr. Mohamed El-Ahab, the president of the Egyptian Society for Cervical Endoscopy, explained during the forum that cervical cancer ranks 13th among cancers that afflict women in Egypt.

El-Ahab added that cervical cancer takes the life of about 744 women every year and was ranked the 12th cause of death among women in 2021. 

The aggressive disease requires rapid medical intervention to stop its spread and control it, he added.

Dr. Alaa Kandil, Professor of Oncology at Alexandria University, explained that almost all cases of cervical cancer are linked to infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) types that are transmitted through sexual contact.

Kandil emphasised the importance of an early examination once any of its symptoms appear even if they were minor ones.

He explained that symptoms for cervical cancer in its early stages include irregular bleeding or light bleeding between menstrual periods; bleeding after menopause; bleeding after intercourse; increased vaginal secretions; and an unpleasant smell.

He also explained that symptoms in later stages include persistent back, leg or pelvic pain; weight loss; feeling fatigued, loss of appetite; foul-smelling discharge and vaginal discomfort; and swelling in one or both legs.

He said cervical cancer can be prevented if accurate diagnostic tests are carried out early on and a vaccine that protects against HPV infection is administered.

He emphasised the importance of the state’s role in raising awareness among women and in making available necessary tests on a regular basis.

New hope

The panel of experts discussed new methods for treatment, which include immunotherapies and recently approved drugs and medicines that increase the ability of the immune system to attack cells and tumors.

These new methods are also used in the treatment of recurrent cervical cancer in combination with chemotherapy.

According to the WHO, in addition to the main factor known factor of  HPV, there are four other risk factors for cervical cancer that should be considered by every woman.

These risk factors are: smoking, which increases the risk by 0.4 percent; giving birth to three or more children; suffering from an immune disease that prevents the body from fighting infections such as HIV; and having used the contraceptive pill as a means of birth control for longer than five years.

In 2020 the UN mobilised to tackle the problem of cervical cancer worldwide.

The UN emphasised that vaccinating nine in 10 girls under 15 against HPV and improving the screening and treatment of women could lower the chances of developing cervical cancer by 40 percent and save five million lives by 2050.

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